Twickenham MP Munira Wilson: “British Airways stripping employees of their rights”

By Jack Francklin
May 22 2020, 12.25

Twickenham MP Munira Wilson accused airliner British Airways of stripping the rights of its employees following the company’s redundancy plans announced last month.

Ms Wilson, 42, has represented the Liberal Democrats in Parliament since last year’s election and has taken action against the threat following dozens of emails from her constituents.

BA is part of the IAG - the group that announced the airline’s intention to make 12,000 employees redundant as a result of the Coronavirus - with more than 22,000 currently on the government’s furlough scheme.

She said: "With the announcement coming now, coupled at the same time with saying anyone who survives this redundancy round will have their rights stripped and be put on a zero-hours contract, that I found absolutely shocking.

"One thing that has really struck me about this crisis is I think it has really marked out who, in terms of big companies, takes corporate responsibilities seriously and who doesn’t; and examples like how BA are behaving shows very little in terms of their commitment to employees.

"They have openly talked about their healthy financial position which also makes me question why they need to announce all these redundancies and strip employees of their rights.

"It is also worth noting that many of these employees have volunteered themselves to go on repatriation flights for British nationals.

"They’ve also been on freight flights to bring in much needed medical supplies. They haven’t necessarily had the PPE protection they've wanted for themselves and so they feel they put themselves in harm's way for the British interest."

CONCERNED: Munira Wilson MP is lobbying hard for her constituents (Photo credit: Nikki Powell)

Ms Wilson said she has received around 80 emails from constituents directly and indirectly affected by the issue and she has responded by writing to BA chief executive Alex Cruz and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to express her dismay and concern and encourage the latter to engage with the airline.

She also signed a letter written by Sarah Olney MP to the Chancellor requesting policy changes in the industry in regards to action on climate and cutting carbon emissions.

"The aviation industry is absolutely strategic and critically important to our future in the world and our trading relationships, business, and people going on holiday but that needs to happen in a more responsible way," she said.

A BA pilot from the Twickenham constituency who wishes to remain anonymous explained that the pilots' union BALPHA made an agreement with the company in March for pilots to take a 50% wage cut, with the understanding at the time that any announcement made regarding the redundancy process would be put on hold until the end of June.

"The announcement came as one hell of a shock. It is largely understood across BA that it has been the wish of the CEO and the senior management for a long time to change the terms and conditions," the source said.

"It seems like they are using the loss of profitability as an excuse to tear up contracts and those terms and conditions.

"Alex Cruz has shown an exceptional lack of leadership throughout this entire crisis and has almost been invisible. I think we have probably received four communications from him since March.

"Amongst the pilot workforce, trust levels are incredibly low. In employee engagement surveys, the percentage of pilots who said they were happy working in the company was under 15%; there is a big issue there which considering in most industries it would be much higher.

"What they (BA) should be doing is actively engaging with the unions to mitigate redundancies."

A British Airways statement from April 28 said: "Our very limited flying schedule means that revenues are not coming into our business. We are taking every possible action to conserve cash, which will help us to weather the storm in the short-term.

"We are working closely with partners and suppliers to discuss repayment terms; we are re-negotiating contracts where possible; and we are considering all the options for our current and future aircraft fleet. All of these actions alone are not enough.

"In the last few weeks, the outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further and we must take action now. We are a strong, well-managed business that has faced into, and overcome, many crises in our hundred-year history. We must overcome this crisis ourselves, too. "

The Twickenham pilot said: "Munira Wilson has been wonderfully supportive, she is lobbying the case for her constituents."

Munira Wilson Twickenham MP. (Photo credits: Nikki Powell)

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